How Long Do RVs Last?

Recreational vehicles, or RVs, are a fantastic way to explore the outdoors while bringing a comfortable abode to retreat into after a long day. RVs come in many shapes and sizes but are separated into two categories; motorhomes and towable RVs. Regardless of which RV you choose, you can expect to pay quite a lot of money for them. Some RVs can cost as little as $8,000 to $10,000, but there are luxury options that can cost well over a million dollars. With RVs costing so much, you are probably asking yourself, how long do they last anyway?

The average motorhome will last around 20 years or about 200,000 miles, whereas an average towable RV will last around 10 to 12 years. However, this depends on how much care and regular maintenance you put into your RV. Unkempt RVs can last as little as eight to ten years before needing to be replaced. Furthermore, some significant occurrences can happen, which can shorten the lifespan of your RV—certain things like sewage clogs, electrical issues, leaky roofs, and tire blowouts.

As you continue to read this article, we will cover the lifespan of motorhomes and towable RVs. Furthermore, we will discuss some issues you need to be wary of that can drastically reduce the lifespan of your RV. Finally, we will give you a list of tips that will help you maintain your RV in good condition to guarantee that your RV lasts as long as possible.

Average Lifespan of a Motorhome

Motorhomes are the more popular RV choice because they are all-in-one vehicles where the living space is connected to the driver’s cabin or cockpit. Unfortunately, motorhomes also tend to be the most expensive type of RV because of their engine. Furthermore, a motorhome engine will increase overall maintenance costs. However, motorhomes tend to be built a little better than towable RVs, and they also tend to last longer. If a motorhome is kept in good shape and the owner has kept up on maintenance, a motorhome can have a lifespan of 20 years or longer.

Average Lifespan of a Towable RV

Towable RVs are the second category of RV and are slightly less popular than motorhomes. Towable RVs tend to be cheaper than motorhomes due to the lack of an engine. However, towable RVs require an additional vehicle to haul them around, and in some cases, you will need a powerful pickup truck. With that said, towable RVs require less maintenance than a motorhome due to the lack of an engine, and maintenance is quicker and cheaper. The average lifespan of a towable RV is around 10 to 12 years, but with the proper care and maintenance, they can easily last 20 years.

Issues that can Limit the Lifespan of Your RV

There are a few issues that can occur that can drastically limit your RV’s lifespan. These issues can cause significant damage to the interior or exterior of your RV. However, there is a good chance that you will not experience any of these issues if you provide enough care and maintenance to your RV. On the other hand, if your RV is not adequately cared for, you can expect most of these issues.

Tire Blowout

Tire blowouts are the most common issue we will talk about on this list. A tire blowout is when a tire suddenly loses all of its air pressure. In other words, a tire blowout is when a tire pops or explodes. This can be especially dangerous because tire blowouts always happen when driving at high speeds.

If a tire blowout happens, the vital thing to remember is to remain calm and DO NOT slam on the break. In fact, you don’t want to press the brake at all. Instead, you want to accelerate because it helps you gain control over your RV. As soon as you have stabilized your RV, slowly pull over off the road while slowly letting your foot off the gas. Once you have slowed down quite a bit and are off the road, you can press down on the break.

The damages caused by a tire blowout can vary depending on where the tire explodes. While most of the damage will be centered on the rim and axle, if the tire explosion is facing up towards the RV floor, the sudden burst of air can cause severe damage to the floor. In the worst cases, the tire blowout can cause you to lose control of the RV and cause even more damage if you collide with another object or car.

Roof Leaks

While a leaky roof does not seem like a significant issue, it can lead to some severe damage to the interior of an RV. Because RVs are subjected to constant exposure to the elements, the roof sealant will degrade, leading to leaks. Roof leaks might not cause damage right away, but if you did not find the leak after you got home from your trip, the leak would persist. If you store your RV outside, this can spell disaster for its interior.

A leaky roof will lead to mold and mildew, which can be costly to clean up. Furthermore, the presence of mold and mildew is nearly impossible to get rid of entirely and will hurt the resale value of your RV. Leaks can also lead to a number of other issues, like warped wood, damaged appliances, and waterlogged furniture.

© RV Repair Club

The best advice we can give about leaks is to bring a few rubber roof patches on your trip. The rubber roof patches are easy to put on and are a temporary fix to stop leaks. Furthermore, when you return home from your trip, take the time to inspect the sealant on your roof thoroughly. If you notice any degradation, replace the sealant on that section of the roof to prevent leaks from forming.

Electrical Issues

As we have said before, RVs are constantly exposed to the elements, leading to leaks. However, this exposure can also lead to damaged electrical systems. RVs have a ton of electrical wiring that transfers power throughout the entire RV, and a few different things can cause electrical issues.

Rodents are the leading cause of electrical issues in RVs. During winter, it is very common for rats, mice, and squirrels to get into an RV and use it as a makeshift home for the winter. While inside the RV, they can cause damage to furniture and other parts of the interior. But, they will often chew on cables to help maintain their teeth. However, this can cause severe damage to the RV. For example, rodents chewing on electrical wires can cause major sections of your RV not to receive power. In other cases, they can cause shorts, leading to electrical fires.

© gwmullis / Getty Images

The best way to handle rodents is to prevent them from getting into your RV in the first place. This can be difficult because rodents can squeeze through some surprisingly small holes. The easiest way to prevent rodents from getting into your RV is with silicone or expanding foam. Start by inspecting your RV’s undercarriage and filling the holes you find. Next, open all cabinets and remove all drawers. Look for areas where cables, plumbing, and ductwork are. If you see any daylight, fill those holes with silicone or expanding foam. Finally, be sure to remove all food from the RV when you are storing it and clean off every surface to remove all traces of food.

Another issue that can damage your electrical components is electrical surges. An electrical surge occurs whenever a significant amount of electricity is sent through an electrical system. This often occurs when an appliance that uses a lot of electricity is suddenly turned off. An electrical surge can also happen due to nearby lightning storms or if your RV is struck by lightning. The best way to prevent power surges is with a surge protector.

Sewage Malfunctions and Clogs

The sewage system in an RV operates differently than the sewer system in a residential home. Furthermore, there are a few different types of sewer systems that you can find in an RV.

Gravity flush toilet
Macerating toilets
Cassette toilet

The most common type of toilet is the gravity flush, which is the same type of toilet that you will find in your own home. Gravity flush toilets flush waste into the sewer system through the hole in the bowl, which uses water and gravity to flush.

The second most common type of toilet is the macerating type. Macerating toilets flush waste like gravity toilets. However, instead of the waste going straight to the black water storage, it passes through several motorized blades and breaks down the waste. This helps prevent waste from building up and being challenging to get rid of.

The last type of toilet is the cassette toilet. Cassette toilets are like small residential porta-potties, in which the waste is stored in a compartment directly under the toilet. This compartment needs to be frequently removed from the RV and dumped.

Regardless of the type of toilet your RV has, there is a good chance that your sewer system will experience clogging, because the sewer system in your RV is relatively sensitive when compared to a residential home. So much so that RVs require you to use a specific type of toilet paper.

While you can clear clogs easily, they can cause a very unpleasant experience if gone unnoticed. For example, flushing a clogged toilet can cause it to flood rapidly, leading to damaged floors and a lingering smell that can be difficult to remove. Clogged sewer systems can also lead to the next point on our list.

The best way to prevent your sewer lines from clogging is to use the correct toilet paper. This may sound silly, but try to space out the use of the toilet. Human waste can easily clog the sewer line from frequent use. Furthermore, ensure everyone knows not to flush anything down the toilet other than the RV toilet paper.

Bursting Water Lines

One of the worst things that can happen to an RV is for a water or sewage line to burst. If not treated quickly, a broken water line will lead to extreme water damage throughout the entire RV. Furthermore, a ruptured water line will cause your kitchen, bathroom, or both to be unusable.

The most common reason a water line breaks in an RV is due to negligent owners skipping or overlooking the maintenance requirements of the water and sewer lines. Because RVs are mostly used during summer, the weather is not a significant issue. But if water is left in the system over winter, the water will freeze and expand, which will cause significant damage to the water system.

The best way to prevent water and sewer pipes from breaking is to maintain them properly. Before you park your RV for the winter, be sure that all of the water is emptied from the storage tanks and pipes.

Maintenance Tips to Extend the Life of Your RV

Maintenance is integral to extending the life of your RV. Keeping up on maintenance will help prevent all of the significant issues we previously discussed. Furthermore, doing maintenance yourself takes quite a bit of time, but you will know what to do and what to look out for with practice.

With that said, we have made a small list of maintenance tips to help prevent the major issues we discussed in the previous section.

Tire Maintenance

Tires are an integral part of the RV, keeping them moving from campsite to campsite. Because of this, tires need to be adequately maintained to prevent blowouts from occurring.

The best way to prevent tire blowouts is by thoroughly inspecting your tires before every trip you take. Take the time to inspect every tire’s treads and air pressure. If the tire treads are looking worn out, replace them. If you are not sure if the tire needs to be replaced, it’s better to be safe than sorry. To check the tire pressure, use a tire gauge. You can find the correct tire pressure in a few places. You can find the tire pressure on the driver-side door sticker if you have a motorhome. You can also find tire pressure in the user manuals and on the tires themselves.

Furthermore, be aware that the weather can affect tire pressure. For example, the heat will expand the tires during summer and increase air pressure, and the opposite is seen during winter. So during summer, you should not fill your tires to the maximum allowed air pressure. Instead, leave a few psi for the tire to expand.

Finally, keep track of how old your tires are. You should replace RV tires every three years regardless of wear and tear.

Bathroom and Sewer Maintenance

No one wants to deal with a clogged toilet, but it can cause a stinky lingering smell. The best way to prevent this is by using some RV toilet chemicals which clean the toilet and break down toilet paper and waste that might be clogging the sewer lines. Furthermore, these chemicals will help clean the black water tank and keep mounding to a minimum.

Preventing water lines from bursting is very simple. First of all, keep all water lines clog-free, which means don’t flush anything that you shouldn’t flush, and don’t let food, trash, or other debris down any sink drains. Furthermore, be doubly sure that you empty the water storage tanks every time you return home from a trip. Lingering water can damage the water storage tanks, and leaving water in the water system over winter can cause significant damage to the pipes.

Roof Maintenance

While using rubber roof patches is a great temporary fix to a leaky roof, once you get home from your trip, you need to fix the leak. Leaving a leak for an extended period can cause significant damage to the interior of an RV.

Every time you return home from a trip, take the time to inspect the roof thoroughly. Look for any signs of degradation in the roof’s sealant. The front and back seams on the roof are the most common places to find leaks because these are areas where water can naturally form pools. If you see any cracks, holes, or dried-out sealant, repair them as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

The average lifespan of an RV is around 10 to 20 years. However, having your RV last a long time depends on the amount of care and maintenance you provide. Keeping up on maintenance can make an RV last longer than 20 years. With that said, be sure that you keep track of your tires, thoroughly inspect your roof, and keep your water lines clog-free. Doing this will help keep some preventable disasters from happening and increase the lifespan of your RV.

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